Bridge and its impact on regular life – the importance of starting early and converting passion into profession

How important is it to start playing bridge early and how difficult is it becoming a professional?

There aren’t many sports that provide an opportunity to cultivate skills that are integral towards everyday life. And there is no denying that bridge is one of the few sports that provides that opportunity to its players.

So in what way exactly does bridge help? Aside from keeping the mind fresh and helping us think clearly, are there any other benefits of playing bridge?

Let us take a look at what three prominent bridge players and aficionados present at the 42nd World Bridge Teams Championships, sponsored by HCL, had to say about the importance of bridge and the impact it has on a person’s everyday life.

David Burn (right) believes focus and concentration are essential

David Burn on the importance of starting early and keeping your focus

Born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Burn was an accomplished bridge player himself, before becoming a coach. His impressive CV includes coaching the Britain team that won the Bermuda Bowl silver medal in 1987 and the European championships in 1991. In the 2015 World Bridge Teams Championships that ends on Saturday, his team (England’s women’s bridge team) won the bronze medal in the Venice Cup.

Burn is a firm believer that although bridge doesn’t involve too much physical activity, it is a sport because of how taxing it is on the mind. And what is the one thing that a successful bridge player needs? According to Burn, it is “concentration”.

He says “you need a lot of technique but at this level, everybody is technically accomplished. Bridge is like golf, it is not about doing anything brilliant, it is not about great flashy strokes or heroic deeds. A successful bridge player doesn’t screw up the easy rounds and the technique required to do that is purely focus, concentration and just not losing it at critical moments.”

Burn also believes that starting to play bridge at a young age is a good thing, not just because it makes the chances of becoming a champion more likely, but also because of the obvious benefits it provides in a child’s overall development.

“It teaches people to work together, to socialise, to be part of a team, to focus on problems that are complicated,” he said. “There is a lot of evidence that shows that introducing bridge in schools and universities has a positive effect on how you get on later in your life.”

Gabriel Chagas (left) is one of the longest-playing veterans of the bridge world

Gabriel Chagas and the art of leveraging success in bridge into the workplace

One of the most difficult things to do is to be a successful bridge player over an extended period of time. Because of the amount of concentration, focus and mental preparation required, being an elite bridge player for a long time if difficult. Gabriel Chagas is unique in that regard.

Not only is the Brazilian one of only 10 players to have achieved the triple crown of bridge (winning the Bermuda Bowl, Olympiad Open Teams and World Open Pairs Championship) but is also one of the few who continues to compete at a high level even after nearly five decades of playing the sport.

“When I started to play bridge, it was an elite sport, where people dressed up in tuxedos for tournaments,” says Chagas. “As bridge become popular, people became more relaxed and in that respect, bridge changed for the better.” While he admits bridge began as a hobby that was given preference, it started to change his life for the better soon enough.

The Brazilian says that being good at bridge, opened a new world of possibilities for him in his professional life. “What I did was use the fact that I was a good player to come up to people that belonged to other levels of success in work. I could reach people who would listen to me.”

Given Chagas’ stance as a staunch advocate of being a passionate bridge player with a full-time career in something else, how does bridge exactly help with work?

“The obvious way it helps is, if you are a champion, you become a more attractive person basically. Otherwise, it is good for your mind. It helps you with your tranquillity and your emotional equilibrium.”

The 71-year-old who stills plays bridge finally added that his mind is “still very sharp, for my age” and his opponents can certainly testify to that.

Aubry happy that the population of professional bridge players is on the rise

Yves Aubry and the rise of the professional bridge player

Born in Brittany, France, Yves Aubry knows all about the difficulties of juggling between one’s profession and passion.

While he is renowned in his home town of Lorient for being a Doctor of Medicine and the Director of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, around the world, he is instantly recognisable as one of the finest administrators that bridge has ever produced.

From the time he became a member of the French Bridge Federation (FBF) in 1973 to 2010, when he was elected as the president of the European Bridge League, Aubry has continued to exceed expectations.

While Aubry isn’t surprised at the increased involvement in bridge, he is certainly happy about it.

He says, “Bridge has developed in importance over the past thirty years. Before, it was restricted, but now you have many professional players across Europe, USA and Asia. There are about 4,000 professional players who are living off bridge, across the world and they have a lot of places to play and earn money”

The Frenchman is keen to stress on the importance of starting to play bridge early and has nothing but praise for the bridge schools across the world, which produce some of the sport’s finest names.

“If you develop bridge in school, you have a sport for life. You learn a lot more when you are young and develop all the qualities for this sport by the time you are 25,” says Aubry.

“After that, you continue to improve and gain experience, but if you don’t learn all the technique by then, your chances of becoming world champion is less. To be a good bridge player you need to be a good technician, so if you are not a top player at 30, you never will be a top player.”

Aubry believes that there are many qualities that make a good bridge player, which can be translated into your profession as well. Arguably the most important is knowing when to take risks, whether it is during the game or in life.

Clearly, bridge has the ability to make an impact in many ways off the ‘table’ as well, and understanding the best method to help popularise and spread knowledge of the game can only help going forward, both in terms of bridge growing as a sport and in terms of the sport helping people in their lives.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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